Unwanted: Dead or Alive
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Unwanted: Dead or Alive

By SAW YAN NAING Tuesday, February 10, 2009

(Page 2 of 2)

A wealthy and influential Rohingya, Sultan Mahmood, became political secretary and was later appointed minister of health.   
U Nu and his colleague, Ba Swe, of the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL), publicly stated in their campaign speeches that the “Bengali Muslims” were recognized among Burma’s ethnic races under the name of “Rohingya.”    
Several political leaders released statements simply to win Rohingya votes. Some AFPFL leaders in the area even granted instant citizenship to the new influx of Bengalis to allow them to cast votes for their party.   

Despite the recognition, military campaigns aimed at stemming the flow of Rohingyas coming to Burma took place in 1966, 1969, 1971, 1974 and 1978. During the Burmese military operations, thousands of Muslim migrants living in Arakan State fled to Bangladesh fearing arrest.

Thakin Chan Htun, a veteran Burmese politician in Rangoon, said that the Rohingyas’ illegal entry into Burma was inevitable as they left Bangladesh due to economic hardships.

In recent times, Burmese officials from the immigration department have contributed to the continued influx of Rohingyas by accepting bribes and issuing national registration cards to illegal Bengali migrants. 

And, of course, some Rohingyas migrated illegally into Arakan State by themselves.    

Violence against Rohingyas in Arakan State—widespread killings, rape and forced labor—led to two mass migrations of refugees in 1978 and 1991.

In 1991, an estimated 250,000 Rohingyas were expelled from Arakan into Bangladesh and took shelter in the Cox’s Bazaar area of Chittagong region.

However, one year later, the Burmese and Bangladeshi governments held bilateral talks on the Rohingya issue and reached an agreement in 1992 to repatriate all Rohingyas to Burma within six months.

However, the de facto process of returning Rohingyas to Burma took several years. 

From 1992 to 2005, according to Burmese state-run The New Light of Myanmar, 236,495 Rohingyas entered Burma legally and settled.

Despite this repatriation, many Rohingya feel they have never been accepted into Burmese society.

Now the Rohingya migration issue has resurfaced its ugly head, and once again the regional players are turning a blind eye to these people’s predicament.

General-Secretary Surin Pitsuwan of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), told Al Jazeera : “This is not an issue for a particular country. It is a regional issue. It is also an issue for the international community.”  
However, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have refused to offer asylum to any Rohingya boatpeople, saying that they are economic migrants and not refugees fleeing persecution.

Meanwhile, many Rohingyas turn to brokers to organize boats to smuggle them toward what they hope are better conditions in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand.

Thailand’s House Committee on Security said that international human traffickers were behind the recent massive influx of Rohingya boatpeople.

Committee Chairman Jehraming Tohtayong said that his panel had discovered that networks of traffickers were bringing Rohingya to Thailand en route to third countries. He said that some of the boatpeople had telephone numbers they used to contact other Rohingyas who have already settled in Thailand.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 protesters gathered in Thailand’s southern port city of Ranong on February 3 to demonstrate against suggestions that the UNHCR is seeking to establish a Rohingya refugee center in the area.
Thai residents told The Irrawaddy that they feared it would lead to problems similar to those in Thailand’s southernmost provinces, where Islamic extremists have been waging a violent struggle for independence for years.

For now, Rohingyas like Mamoud Hussein prefer to take their chances on the high seas—despite the probability of ending up dead or in a foreign jail—than carry on living as a discriminated group.

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Tin Win Wrote:
It is very fearful that Saw Yan Naing's expression of the Rohingya influx into Burma is extremely biased and totally inaccurate.

Than Aung Wrote:
I feel very much pain to see the Rohingya boatpeople. They will surely be killed if deported to Myanmar [Burma]. Please accept their asylum request. An earnest request.

Ariff Cassim Wrote:
It is a shame to have these innocent human beings labeled as Rohingyas and not as victims of political repression and religious discrimination. If only they were of a different religious denomination the corrupted regimes of these two countries would have a different outlook on this human tragedy. And as far as the UN Refugee networks are concerned, it is a geographical issue that needs to be solved by Burma and Thailand. The fair solution will be for Burma to accept the Rohingyas as their citizens as they were considered in the past when one of their leaders held a cabinet level position in Burma. Stop this political game of human chess playing and do what is preached by every religion and be kind to your neighbor.

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